As Aston Villa prepare to face Tottenham on Sunday, boss Dean Smith has a selection headache between Axel Tuanzebe and Kortney Hause.
After switching to a 3-5-2 system, Tuanzebe was drafted in to slot in alongside Ezri Konsa and Tyrone Mings at the back, allowing Matty Cash and Matt Targett to push on down the wings.
To his credit, the Man Utd loanee did well as we kept a clean sheet in the win over Everton, while he impressed against Chelsea in the Carabao Cup too despite the return to a back four.
Hause also impressed in that midweek cup tie, and he was given the opportunity to build on his performance with a start against Man Utd, with Tuanzebe ruled out due to being ineligible to face his parent club.
The 26-year-old made the most of his chance as he put in a stellar defensive display as we kept another clean sheet, while he also had time to head home the winning goal to seal all three points for Villa.
Hause also managed to survive late drama as after his handball, Bruno Fernandes missed the subsequent penalty, and Villa celebrated their first win at Old Trafford since 2009.
With Tuanzebe ready to return for Tottenham this weekend though, who does Smith go with?
It’s fair to say that neither Konsa nor Mings are in danger of being dropped when fit, and so both Hause and Tuanzebe are ultimately fighting for one spot, assuming we continue with the 3-5-2 which seems likely given the success we’ve had since moving to it.
Hause will no doubt feel aggrieved if he’s now dropped as he has surely played his way into the starting XI for another week at least, but it’s a difficult decision for Smith as Tuanzebe was just as impressive and will be eager to regain his spot in the side immediately.
While it remains to be seen who ultimately gets the nod, this is the strength in depth and the squad that Smith has long been talking about that Villa need to have to progress and to become competitive at the top level.
It has been a gradual process from swamping the squad with loanees during our stint in the Championship, to trying to fill it out on our return to the Premier League and then adding quality over quantity where possible to strengthen further.
We’re no longer over-reliant on any one player, the side is more dynamic and flexible, and if we lose players to injury, which we have in several positions already this season with the likes of Ollie Watkins, Leon Bailey and Matt Targett all missing time, we have the squad that can cope and ensure we continue to put out a strong XI.
So as Smith deliberates and analyses who is the better option to start at Spurs, Villa are finally seeing healthy competition come to the fore, and not just any competition, but quality individuals battling for places. That should in turn bring the best out of each other in training this week, and given the same can be seen in other areas of the squad, it keeps everyone on their toes and pushing that extra little bit to be part of what will hopefully be a successful side this season.